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Finding Your Balance with Workforce Optimization

In early 2014, ICMI made a set of predictions to help contact center leaders focus their upcoming customer service initiatives, resolutions and projects. Now that we’re halfway through the year, it seems like a good time to revisit and reflect on our progress.

One of our predictions was that contact centers would (and should) concentrate their efforts on unifying the overall experience – both for the customer and the agent.

Back in 2013 I referred to this as ‘rebalancing’, but the concept of having better cohesion between the agent and the customer really hasn’t changed. Arguably, most companies look for ways to improve the customer experience and set themselves apart from competitors.  They add more products, increase customer service channels, invest in innovative technologies, and expand in new geographies. Yet, almost half of contact center leaders recently told ICMI and inContact, (through a WFO research survey), that improving customer satisfaction was still the number one initiative for them! So where is the disconnect?

It’s in that unification, or lack thereof.  As we continue to add channels – like social, chat, video, and SMS, while also increasing the complexity of our products, and implementing new technologies – both external to the customer and internal to the agent, we often make the experience very disjointed and complicated. And much of this imbalance occurs because we’ve lost sight (or time and resources) of our contact center fundamentals.

For example, 94% of contact centers support inbound phone as a channel, and an almost equal number forecast its volume, schedule agents for the volume, and then QA the agents. Now compare this to a newer channel like social – 28% support it as a channel, yet only 7% forecast the volume, 13% schedule agents for the volume, and a mere 8% quality monitor social! Companies are promoting social as a viable alternative to more traditional channels, yet both agents and customers are having a haphazard experience with it!

And this disparity is not limited to social. We saw similar issues across many channels, including email, mobile, and self-service escalations. The point is, that the busier and more complex we make the customer experience, the more important it is to exercise the functions of workforce optimization.

When we asked contact center leaders why they weren’t consistent with QA, forecasting, scheduling and performance management across all their channels, they reported that the manual processes were often overwhelming, and that they struggled to properly tie together agent performance and operational data.

  • 66% of contact centers still manually tie together agent performance and operational data
  • 53% say the manual linking process of performance and operations is too time-consuming and needs automation

Automation is just one way that workforce optimization can really help! Throughout the aforementioned WFO survey, our respondents cited many areas that could be enhanced or rebalanced with WFO.

When asked what they’d most like to change about their contact center technology, contact center leaders overwhelmingly expressed the desire to:

  • Unify reporting
  • Decrease agent desktop systems
  • Improve analytics to identify service recovery opportunities, and
  • Have more interoperability between systems

All of these things help increase the effectiveness, consistency and efficiency of the contact center, ultimately helping improve the customer experience and overall customer satisfaction.

Remember though, that WFO is NOT just separate pieces of technology; it’s the process of tying together actual human performance and behavior to operational data, which as we saw is much more effective with automation! It’s that rebalance and unification of the overall experience that can really make a difference.

“This is such an exciting time to be in the contact center space,” declares Kristyn Emenecker, the VP of WFO Solutions Group for inContact. “We’re revolutionary. Automation and workforce optimization is changing the way that the contact center is operating. And that can only mean a better experience for all involved – agents, companies and customers alike.”

This post first appeared on the inContact blog.

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